"A Brave New Woman:" Print Media's Portrayal of Women in the American Civil War
Syamken, Jennie M.
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The American Civil War transformed the roles of women in the United States. Their domestic lifestyle was uprooted as many women vacated their domestic duties and joined different public causes to support the war in either the Union or Confederacy. These new roles included serving on the United States Sanitary Commission, as nurses in hospitals and on the front lines, and as women soldiers. This study illustrates how the 19th century print media published favorable stories about women’s expanding roles in the Civil War and molded public opinion about white women in a male dominated society. The first chapter will assess the work of other historians on the changing nature of journalism and women’s contributions in the war. The second chapter includes the coverage of women by newspapers and periodicals in the public sphere, most notably in the Sanitary Commission, aid societies and as nurses in the hospitals and on the battlefield. The third chapter will focus on the media’s portrayal of the experiences of women soldiers in battle and camp life. This affirmative view encouraged greater acceptance of women outside of the domestic sphere. Helped by the favorable portrayal of their efforts by newspapers and periodicals, women seized the opportunity to expand their roles by creating a new sense of respect for their gender, as evidenced by the successful efforts by Civil War nurses to secure pensions for their wartime service.